As the early settlers in some of North. Melbourne’s Streets were mainly Scots, these streets received Scottish names. Hence Abbotsford Street after the home of Sir Walter Scott built by the river Tweed.
The original name of that place was “Cartley Hole.” The locals twisted this to “Clarty Hole”, meaning “Dirty Hole”. This showed what they thought of the place — a little farm house in 100 acres sprawling sour and neglected in a hollow by the river.
The place was dear to Scott as the site of the last clan battle between his forbears and the Kers in 1526 and as the reputed haunt of Thomas the Rhymer who, 60 years before, had woven into verse the legends and histories of the land, as Scott was to do in his day. So in 1811, at the age of 40, Scott bought the place.
Scott set himself to transform the place and began by renaming it. There had been an abbots’ ford across the shallows of the river, over which the Abbots of nearby Melrose Abbey had driven their cattle centuries before. Hence the new name.
In five years, the 100 acre “Dirty Hole” became an estate of 1000 acres. By banking the river, planting trees of many kinds, and general landscaping Scott created a most colorful scene. Piece by piece, at heavy expense, the present house was built.
By every artistic and architectural standard the house is a monstrosity; but Scott’s life and work have made it one of Scotlands great shrines. It is a museum of Scottish lore with relics of Rob Roy, Flora Macdonald, Queen Mary, Montrose, Claverhouse and Bonnie Prince Charlie. Also housed there is a copy of the first published book of Australian verse. the first published book of Australian verse.(1)
(1) Northern Advertiser 28/5/1970. Blanchard collection, “What’s in a Name” at North Melbourne Library.
(2) Melbourne Council Street Card Number #367, street gazetted in 1860 and 1867.